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Good old bread grows in variety

The plain old stuff they used to call double-roti in India has come a long way to European-style baguettes, rolls, paninis, ciabattas, thanks to global exposure, reports Ruchi Hajela.

india Updated: Apr 25, 2008 22:52 IST
Ruchi Hajela

In the usage of grains, in add-ons like spices and vegetables, and in the style they are shaped or baked, bread is simply not what it used to be.

For consumers it breaks the monotony, and for enterprising bakers, breads promise higher profits. While bigger companies are slowly expanding their fare, local bakers, often inspired entrepreneurs, are ushering in great innovations. The growth of health consciousness, taste and lifestyle is adding to the buzz in the marketplace.

Take a walk around fancy bakeries in upscale neighbourhoods and even some relatively modest middle class localities and you may spot a new variety of bread you never knew existed.

In addition to the staple white bread, garlic bread and brown bread (that has malt) have been around for a while. Now, leading bread manufacturers and specialised bakeries are churning an entire new generation of breads adapted in Indian flavours to suit the Indian palate. Bread lovers believe that in the last five years, the market has seen an introduction of a plethora of bread varieties.

Harvest Gold leads the market in Delhi and the National Capial Region (NCR) with a market share of about 65 per cent of the organised market in these areas. The company recently introduced four varieties of health breads—daliya bread, soya bread, garlic bread and jau-chana, all priced at Rs 20 per loaf.

“Apart from Delhi/NCR, we have also introduced these breads in Jaipur, Aligarh and Bareilly,” Naveen Sawhney, Marketing Consultant, Harvest Gold said. Britannia bread is a part of breakfast of more than 6.5 lakh households of around 30 lakh people on a daily basis. The company has entered into an arrangement with Bangalore-based Daily Breads that makes various types of European-style baguettes, rolls, paninis, ciabattas, multi-grain bread, croissants, foccaccias, organic breads, gluten–free breads, Danish pastry and doughnuts.

A baguette, known for its length, is often called a French loaf and has a crispy crust. A ciabatta, which literally means carpet slipper because of its shape, is an Italian white bread made of wheat flour and yeast, with an elongated loaf flattened like a slipper. It is used often as a sandwich bread.

A panini (plural) or panino (singular) is a sandwich made from a single bread loaf, which could be a ciabatta. The loaf is cut and filled with cheese or other items. Focaccia is a flat oven-baked Italian bread which may be topped with onions, herbs or other toppings.

Local bakers are moving even faster than labels like Britannia. “We have about 15 varieties of assorted breads that we produce ourselves. In fact, assorted breads are amongst our fast moving goods,” said the store manager at Nathu’s pastry shop located in New Delhi’s Bengali Market.

The best thing about bread is the convenience attached with it. “Assorted breads come in handy when someone is short of time and doesn’t have the time to cook an entire meal,” said Lalit Dar, Additional Professor, Department of Microbiology, AIIMS, New Delhi.While breads may come in handy when someone is running out of time, special breads also offer high nutritional value. “Assorted breads have a higher component of vitamins, fibre and minerals like iron and zinc,” said Ishi Khosla, a leading Delhi-based nutritionist. Comparatively better nutritional value makes assorted breads more health friendly. “Being high on fibre, breads like multi-grain or whole-wheat help keep cholesterol in check,” Dar said.

However, for a lot of people these breads are no more than a flavoured variety of their regular bread. “A lot of people are not aware of the nutritional values of assorted breads but things are changing now,” says Khosla.

“We sell about 200-250 loaves of these breads everyday, with about 50 wholemeal breads, which are the most popular,” Charanjeet Singh, Manager, Wenger & Company, one of Delhi’s oldest bakeries, said. Exotic breads are so far fancied mainly in upscale areas. “Not many people buy these breads and in fact, a large majority of our customers still prefer the regular white bread over any of these,” said Surinder Kumar Soni, co-owner of Soni Bakers, a specialised confectionery located in West Delhi’s Rajouri Garden.